The City Council meeting Wednesday night became a sounding board for residents to complain about crime and taxes, and to ask for the Sixth Street railroad embankment to be preserved as a nature trail.
The crowd was part of a rally organized by religious leaders before the council meeting, which resulted in approximately 100 people gathered in front of City Hall.
Also at the meeting, the City Council passed two ordinances that attempt to stop developer Steve Hyman, who owns the former Conrail railroad embankment, from building two-family homes there. One re-designates the Embankment as a Municipal Landmark (it was already designated as a Municipal Landmark by the City Council in 2003, but the designation is currently being challenged in court due to technicalities). The other requires anyone acquiring railroad property to present proof that the rail line was properly abandoned according to federal regulations.Mayor Healy, are you listening?
Marching outside City Hall in a light rain, those participating in Wednesday’s protest cried out for Mayor Healy to pay attention to their concerns. They carried signs that read “City council: vote no to more taxes” (see related story on cover) and “More social services, not raises for the boys!”
There were also shouts of “Stop the killing” and “Where are you, Mayor Healy?”
The rally was organized by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City and Vicinity, who also plan to hold a community forum as a follow-up to the rally on Jan. 26 at St. Michael’s Church on Virginia Avenue starting at 7 p.m.
The protesters asked for the city to provide more recreation for the city’s children, place more minorities in key city positions, combat homelessness, provide more low-income housing and keep the pending tax increase low.
The protesters also sang “We Shall Overcome” and made references to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, whose day of honor is coming Monday.
Mayor Healy said on Thursday that he was sympathethic to the concerns of the Alliance. He said he was in his office Wednesday afternoon when the rally took place and heard what they said about him.
“I agree with them that something needs to be done about the violence in the city and the other problems we face,” conceded Healy. Rally comes inside
Many of the protesters then made their way into the council chambers, where they lashed out at the mayor and city officials for not attending enough to city’s problems.
Lavern Webb-Washington, a lifelong city resident, was one of those who expressed her disgust. “It’s a sad day in Jersey City and it’s a sad day in America when we continue to do nothing about the killing or about our young people,” said Washington, who also scolded the council for not showing up at a teen summit Wednesday morning at Ferris High School. “We need to communicate with these young people in school and out of school. We are not doing our jobs as citizens and as adults.”
Lorenzo Richardson, a community activist, criticized Mayor Healy for his contention in the letter that accompanied the 2006 calendar year tax bill that the pending tax increase was necessary since the city committed to the most extensive city street paving program in many years.
“How much did the street paving cost?” he asked. “Because it didn’t get up to Greenville. So they ran out of money?” He was nearly drowned out by applause.
Rev. Ron-Calvin Clark of the Ministerial Alliance said the Alliance has tried to make Mayor Healy, Congressman Robert Menendez (who lives in Hoboken) and incoming Governor Jon Corzine aware of the problems.
After the speakers finished, City Councilwoman-At-Large Willie Flood said she would become more personally involved in finding solutions to solve the pressing problems in the city. Embankment still a priority
Before the City Council went on to discuss the Embankment, they listened to attorneys for property owner Steve Hyman put up a fight of their own.
Carmine Alampi and Michelle Donato both made arguments saying Hyman should not be impeded from developing the Embankment, since he is a private property owner and was being singled out as an owner of railroad property as the result of the ordinances.
Donato introduced historian Dr. Michael Alterman to buttress the argument that the Embankment is not worthy of historic designation.
But the arguments riled a number of supporters for the preservation of the Embankment and failed to sway a majority of the council. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org